Has Geely cut its holding in Daimler? The Chinese carmaker says ‘no’

Geely Auto Group, one of China’s most successful carmakers, said its holding in Daimler remained unchanged, refuting a Bloomberg report that said it had cut its 9.7 per cent stake in the German carmaker by more than half.

“As a long term investor, Zhejiang Geely Holding has not sold any shares. The Daimler shareholding remains unchanged,” the company said in a statement on Friday.

The statement came after Bloomberg said Geely, controlled by Chinese billionaire Li Shufu, had sold a 5.4 per cent stake of the German company.

Geely, which also owns Volvo Cars, has been a pioneer among Chinese vehicle companies to expand overseas.

It spent about US$9 billion in the beginning of 2018 for the Daimler stake, in a deal underscoring Li’s ambitions to turn Geely into a global carmaking powerhouse.

Shares of Daimler have dropped by about a third since Geely’s purchase of the 9.7 per cent stake, trading at more than €48 (US$55.2) on Friday.

Li, the founder and chairman of the Hangzhou-based company, said in his New Year address posted on social media that 2019 would be pivotal for Geely as it might face a dismal period because of weak market conditions.

Geely Automobile Holdings, the Hong Kong-listed unit of the Geely empire, said in a stock exchange filing on Monday that it missed its 2018 sales target and expected a year of flat performance in 2019.

Its shares have lost 19.6 per cent this year, closing at HK$11.10 (US$1.42) on Friday.

Chinese carmaker Geely’s shares plunge 11.6pc after annual sales fall short of target, warns of dismal year ahead

Chinese carmakers bore the brunt of China’s economic slowdown and the tit-for-tat US-China trade war that dampened consumers’ buying interest in passenger vehicles last year.

Passenger vehicle sales in the mainland, the world’s largest auto market, dropped for the first time since 1992, according to the China Passenger Car Association.

The mainland auto sector sold 22.35 million units in 2018, down 5.8 per cent from a year earlier.

The Bloomberg report was published after Morgan Stanley disclosed in a filing on Thursday that it had increased its Daimler stake to 5.39 per cent from 0.34 per cent on January 4.

Bloomberg said Morgan Stanley held the shares on behalf of others.